WINNIPEG — Lightning star C Steven Stamkos said he believes he is "ahead of schedule" in his recovery from a broken right tibia, encouraging news in his quest to be ready for next month's Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Stamkos, who broke his right tibia on Nov. 11, was named to Canada's team and on Tuesday, after a brief skate reiterated his intention to play.
"I'm very excited," Stamkos said. "It's an honor any time you can represent your country, but at the Olympic level, that trumps everything. … I'm going to do everything I can to be ready."
Stamkos said his goal is to play at least two games before the Olympic tournament, which runs Feb. 12-23. That would put him on the ice no later than Feb. 6 at home against the Maple Leafs.
"Every day just trying to feel a little bit better," said Stamkos, who called his 30-minute skate Monday at the MTS Centre "one of the tougher skates I've had. You just don't want to have a setback right now. I'm just trying to make sure I don't push things at this stage."
Hedman snub: One of the most surprising Olympic decisions was Sweden passing over D Victor Hedman, who is on pace for a career season.
True, the Swedes are stacked, but Hedman, 23, has emerged as one of the league's most dynamic blue-liners and entered Tuesday with eight goals, 22 points in 36 games with an average 21:56 of ice time.
"I've played the best hockey of my career," said Hedman, who acknowledged he got the news by email about a week ago. "I was hoping that would be enough to make the team. I got the short stick I guess."
Equipment trouble: G Cedrick Desjardins made it from Syracuse, N.Y. to Winnipeg through Toronto, but his equipment didn't. So the callup from the Crunch, who backed up Anders Lindback on Tuesday against Winnipeg, used the skates of goaltender coach Frantz Jean and some gear from the Jets.
Injuries: There was no update on G Ben Bishop (hand), and coach Jon Cooper made it sound as if there wouldn't be one until the team returned from Winnipeg. … RW J.T. Brown, whose right shoulder was wrapped after Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Oilers, did not play Tuesday.
Odds and ends: LW Ondrej Palat's second-period goal Tuesday gave him three goals, five assists in a seven-game points streak, the league's longest this season by a rookie. … Tampa Bay played with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. … F Tom Pyatt and D Andrej Sustr also were scratched.